Conventional banana production in Central America is not sustainable. It depends on frequent and heavy agrochemical applications to reduce pest damage, increase yields, and comply with the quality standards of importing countries. This has resulted in the contamination of soil, water, and food and the poisoning of workers and local communities. Employees of banana plantations work long hours under harsh and dangerous conditions usually without a contract or adequate compensation, and are often prohibited from organizing to improve their plight. Housing in plantation towns is often run down and overcrowded, with a high incidence of social problems such as alcoholism, child abandonment, and physical abuse. The multinational banana corporations control all aspects of production, transportation, and marketing, limiting the control of and economic benefits provided to local people.
Market Diversification: We are working on a project to produce shade grown organic banana vinegar and sun dried bananas as a way to diversify the market, increase earnings for producers, and educate the public about conventional and organic banana production.
Volunteers / Interns: An intern and volunteer project is under way to involve interested individuals in visiting and working on an organic banana farm or within the community teaching English, environmental education, etc. (Spanish language courses are being offered). The cost for one month is $850 including housing, food, transport, volunteer placement. Spanish instruction is additional. Proceeds go to ACAPRO, an association of organic producers. If you are interested in volunteering, please contact the Sustainable Banana Project at the address/email listed at the bottom of this page.
However, more sustainable forms of production do exist. Small scale producers, operating independently of transnational corporations, are able to grow bananas without heavy agrochemical inputs, often organically. These locally controlled agricultural systems are supportive of local people, economies, and cultures. The major obstacle to the success and increased implementation of small scale systems is the lack of market demand in importing countries, primarily the United States. The only way to insure the sustainability of banana production in Central America is to increase awareness amongst consumers in the U.S. about the problems associated with conventional banana production and the benefits of supporting small scale banana growers.
The Sustainable Banana Program was founded in 2000 by Carrie McCracken who has spent several years researching banana production in Central America. Carrie's love for the people and environments of Central America, concern over the problems created by banana production, and dedication to achieving a more equitable relationship with the Earth, prompted her to start this program.
The Sustainable Banana Program encourages banana production that protects the society, economy, and cultures of banana producing countries through the following:
Informing consumers about the effects of large scale banana production is critical. Only when consumers demand bananas produced without harm to the people and environment, will there be an incentive for farmers to utilize sustainable production methods. The Sustainable Banana Program works to educate people around the world through outreach programs and the production and distribution of educational materials.
Limited funding in many Central American countries has prevented ongoing monitoring of banana plantations and research into alternative methods. The Sustainable Banana Program collaborates with individuals and organizations in Central America on research projects that focus on achieving a comprehensive and accurate understanding of banana production in the region. Our most current research project is a study of small scale banana producers in Costa Rica, documenting their production methods, motivations for entering into such a competitive and controlled industry, and successes and/or failures.
The long term goal of the Sustainable Banana Program is to work with organic banana farmers to market their product in the United States. However, not until a significant market demand is created, through education and research, will this goal be achieved.
All questions, comments, and tax-deductible donations can be made to The Sustainable Banana Program by contacting us at the address given below.
A World Institute for a Sustainable Humanity